You may have heard that the WHO recommends breastfeeding a baby for at least six months. Why? Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to protect a newborn’s health. And it is quite significant to debunk the myths associated with breastfeeding for all moms-to-be and new parents and prove to them that breastfeeding is the most necessary nutrition for the baby.
Breast milk composition
To begin with, let’s talk about the uniqueness of the composition of breast milk. This product is created by nature, perfectly balancing its composition for the needs of a growing child.
The composition of breast milk changes as your baby grows. It contains proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, which are necessary for the construction of new cells in the body of the baby, a full range of vitamins and minerals, essential compounds for brain development, and the maturation of the gut microbiota.
Breast milk contains a vast number of vitamins that cannot be synthesized at the same time. In addition, breast milk contains lactoferrin – a multifunctional protein, part of human immunity, which cannot be added to a powdered milk formula.
Whey proteins in breast milk are of high biological value. They are easily digested, absorbed, and take an active part in the construction of tissues and organs of the baby. It is extremely significant and valuable that the proteins of mother’s milk mainly do not cause allergic reactions, which cannot be said about formula made based on cow’s milk.
The health benefits of breastfeeding
Breast milk not only nourishes your baby’s body, but it also protects it. It contains many living substances, including stem cells, white blood cells, beneficial bacteria, and other components such as antibodies, enzymes, and hormones. Because of this, breast milk helps the body fight infections, prevents disease, and promotes healthy development.
Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life are less likely to have diarrhea, vomiting, colds, flu, and respiratory infections.
Of course, breastfed babies sometimes get sick, too, but breastfeeding a sick baby is even more beneficial. Babies who are breastfed usually recover faster.
The immune support of breast milk is vital in critical emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
The beneficial effects of breastfeeding go beyond nutrition and immune support. When your baby is upset or not feeling well, breastfeeding soothes him or her, which is also a significant benefit. Studies have shown that breastfeeding during vaccinations relieves pain and calms the baby.
Breastfeeding is not only healthy but also convenient. Breast milk is always sterile, fresh, and at the right temperature. It is always “at hand” and will not spoil, even if the mother has not fed her baby for several days.
The benefits of breastfeeding for your baby’s sleep
You may have heard that babies who are formula-fed sleep better. However, this is just a myth. Studies show that such babies are no less likely to want to eat at night than breastfed babies.
On the other hand, breastfed babies can fall asleep more easily. Oxytocin, which is produced in the baby’s body when sucking the breast, falls asleep the baby. And the hormones and nucleotides in breast milk promote healthy circadian rhythms (sleep patterns).
Breastfeeding is a close bond between mother and baby
Breastfeeding provides a very close emotional bond between mother and baby. While breastfeeding, the baby not only meets his or her needs for food and water but also his or her needs for communication with the mother. Studies have shown that breastfeeding contributes to the baby’s emotional and mental health, improves memory and intelligence, and relieves stress.
Enjoying the breastfeeding experience is important. Your emotions are transmitted to your baby on a subconscious level. Close contact between mother and baby is essential. The warmth of the mother’s body soothes the baby. Mutual affection stimulates the production of milk.
Premature babies require special care. Skin-to-skin contact stimulates baby’s growth and relieves stress. Breathing and heartbeat come back to normal. Close contact develops mutual understanding. The child develops a sense of trust in the world around them.
But what if you can’t breastfeed?
Moms who cannot breastfeed for health reasons have intense feelings of guilt. They are under pressure from society, other mothers, and lactation consultants. Many sink into depression because of this, trying to breastfeed through physical pain. But breastfeeding shouldn’t be a major priority for a woman in such cases, and it is not the only possible way of feeding her child. It hurts many new moms even to think that they won’t give something to their babies.
Breastfeeding is great, but it’s not the only method. Bottle feeding is not shameful. You can raise a healthy baby with formula, too. The main thing is for the mom to feel comfortable and confident.
The first step you should take when you want or need to begin the transition to formula feeding is to talk to your pediatrician. Your doctor can give you individual recommendations on the formula and the transition schedule.
Can a baby formula be a complete substitution for breast milk?
Certainly, no modern formula can be a full-fledged substitute for breast milk, but if you choose the right one, your baby will probably get the most out of everything he or she needs for development.
What is the best baby formula? The answer depends primarily on the health condition of the particular child. It is important to remember that regular formulas may not suit some babies, and they need specialized products: introduced to eliminate the symptoms of lactose intolerance, reduce or stop regurgitation, and relieve constipation and other digestive issues.
Organic baby formulas are quite popular among parents. Natural and organic ingredients make baby food healthier and safer, which is why so many parents choose baby formula products labeled “Organic.” Strict requirements are imposed on such products, and manufacturers undergo several special tests to obtain organic certification.
That’s why many parents prefer European formula options (such as organic goat’s milk or pasture-raised cow’s milk) that are unusual or unavailable in the versions regulated by the FDA in the United States.
Others choose a certain formula from Europe because they believe it meets the highest quality standards. So, as you see, the baby food market offers different options to meet the nutritional needs of your little one. But the main rule when choosing a milk formula is the recommendation of your pediatrician, with whom you can discuss all possible variants of baby food.